Being the change

A message from Executive Dean of Health Sciences Professor Suzanne Chambers:

The famous American anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has.” This seems a very fitting quote with which to lead into my column as it is, for me, a very salient reflection on the actions and outcomes of ACU individually and collectively.

In March, the Faculty of Health Sciences First Peoples Collaborative was launched as a community of practice to support how First Peoples perspectives are embedded into our learning and teaching practices. Through cultural reflection the collaborative recognises and celebrates all cultures in a welcoming and inclusive space as our reconciliation journeys continue. At the same time, and further building on their partnership with Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA), the School of Allied Health began cultural responsiveness training for key staff. These initiatives are part of our commitment to lay further foundations for First Peoples cultural safety and success within the Faculty Health Sciences (FHS), both inside and outside the classroom.

In keeping with its recent Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, which reflects the university’s commitment to social justice and the common good, we in the FHS are determined to continue to innovate and amplify the quality and impact of our work.

To this end, we have academics leading an evaluation exploring the effectiveness of a series of support services for parents of premature or very sick babies admitted to neonatal intensive care units and special care units across 150 Australian hospitals. The project is in partnership with Life’s Little Treasures Foundation, which offers a range of products and services to parents in what is a very difficult period in their lives, both while their baby is in hospital and once the family have returned home.

In another collaborative international research project, academics are exploring nutritional knowledge and practices of parents in Papua, Indonesia. The project is in partnership with the Black Pearl Network (of the Uniting Church) and will also involve working with an Indonesian partner university who will collect the data in-country.

And in yet another collaborative international project, the contribution of students has paved the way for capacity building food literacy programs. In partnership with Darebin communities, programs have been developed to encourage healthy eating, enable access to healthy foods and enhance community understanding around food and nutrition.

In April, as is the faculty’s custom, we celebrated the feast day of our faculty patron Saint Bernadette of Lourdes with the first Aquero lecture of the year. The Aquero Lecture Series honours the Catholic intellectual tradition by inspiring progressive dialogue towards principled leadership, in a global health paradigm that is constantly changing. SPRINT, in conjunction with the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research presented on the fascinating subject, “You are what you eat … and how you sleep”. Presenting Professors Shona Halson and Louise Burke shared their combined expertise from more than 40 years working with elite and professional athletes and the lessons we can all learn from a nutrition and sleep perspective. The professors showcased insights on quantities and timing of caffeine consumption for performance and how different quantities of alcohol affect REM sleep, with insightful takeaways and enlightening facts on the subtleties of elite athletes’ diets and the effect on their performance. The lecture below is available for anyone who may have missed attending.

Also in April, Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Zlatko Skrbis and Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research Director Professor John Hawley officially opened the ACU human metabolic chamber, the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere.. The chamber will afford future research into the effects of exercise and dietary interventions on the health of all Australians in areas like obesity and type 2 diabetes, sleep and circadian rhythm, exercise physiology and sports science.

You can also watch a short video on how the metabolic chamber works below.

Thus, we witness groups of thoughtful, committed individuals working to change the world for the better. And I encourage everyone in our university to take a moment to reflect on our shared commitment to human dignity and the common good, and our commitment to each other as a learning and giving community. Perhaps a moment to ask ourselves, “In my work, how do I protect the dignity of others, and can I do more? How might I renew and replenish my contribution to the wellbeing of my community?”

Aquero Lecture Series – You are what you eat…and how you sleep!

ACU’s whole-body room calorimeter – the metabolic chamber

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